U.N.: Afghanistan on brink of humanitarian crisis

More Afghans are likely to flee their homes due to escalating violence, the U.N. refugee agency warned on Tuesday (July 13) as the Taliban take control of more territory in response to the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces.

Babar Baloch of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Afghanistan was on the brink of another humanitarian crisis, that can and must be avoided.

"So, there is a 29 percent increase in civilian casualties during the first quarter of 2021 when compared to the numbers in 2020, according to United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. An increasing proportion of women and children were among those being targeted.

"A failure to reach a peace agreement in Afghanistan and stem the current violence will lead to further displacement within the country, as well as to neighboring countries and beyond."

The UNHCR said an estimated 270,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since January, bringing the number of people forced from their homes to more than 3.5 million.

Those forced to flee blamed the security situation, extortion by non-state armed groups and improvised explosive devices on major roads, as well as a loss of income and interruptions to social services, Baloch said.

The U.S. general leading the war in Afghanistan, Austin Miller, relinquished command at a ceremony in the capital, Kabul, on Monday (July 12) and quietly left the country, a symbolic end to America's longest conflict.

U.S. President Joe Biden has acknowledged that Afghanistan's future is far from certain but said the Afghan people must decide their own fate.